Reviews The American Record Guide.:
This is a deeply rewarding release. Johnson drew me in by his sheer attention to the sound of the organ. The use of the nightingale stop on "Capriccio sopra la Girolmeta" made me laugh out loud, and the "Ricercar con obligo di cantare la quinta parte senza tocarla," a polyphonic fantasy with a Latin mantra chanted over it, left me speechless."
These “Musical Flowers” by Girolamo Frescobaldi, who was appointed in 1608 as organist of the Vatican for life, were published in 1635 after Frescobaldi’s return to St. Peter’s in Rome from Florence. There, he served the Medici family for five years as the most highly paid musician in Italy.
The epitome of Frescobaldi’s creativity, the Fiori Musicali are the last works published during his 59-year life. They include Toccatas, Ricercars, Canzonas, Capriccios, and settings of the Kyrie. They are arranged in three Masses with many alternative or extra compositions. All of the works are included in this 2-CD set.
Calvert Johnson, editor of the 2008 edition published by Wayne Leupold Editions, the first based largely on a 1637-40 tablature preserved in Torino, plays the restored 1676 Giuseppe Testa organ at Chiesa di Santa Lucia in Serra San Quirico, Italy. A schola sings brief chants of the Kyrie and a soprano sings one work.
by Calvert Johnson
The most important Italian composer for keyboard instruments in the early Baroque era, and he who successfully transferred to keyboard instruments the new expressive Baroque idiom of the madrigal, monody, and opera, was Girolamo Frescobaldi. As organist at St. Peter’s, Rome, he held the most prestigious position for an organist during his lifetime.
Frescobaldi was born in Ferrara 15 September 1583 to organist Filippo Frescobaldi and Lucrezia Frescobaldi. Ferrara was an important cultural center where Duke Alfonso II d’Este actively patronized music including the concerto delle donne featuring virtuosic sopranos accompanied by harpsichord. The director of the duke’s musica da camera was Luzzasco Luzzaschi, one of the top organists in Italy and organist at Ferrara Cathedral, with whom Frescobaldi studied. Visitors to Ferrara between 1596 and 1603 included Gesualdo, Porta, Marenzio, Merulo, Monteverdi, Dowland, Caccini, Counts Bardi and Corsi, and the librettist Rinuccini. The new Baroque idioms of monody, expressive madrigal, and early opera were familiar to local musical circles, and Frescobaldi was early exposed to the latest musical developments as well as being thoroughly trained in traditional Netherlandish counterpoint.
Upon the death of Alfonso II, Pope Clement VIII Aldobrandini claimed Ferrara for the Vatican States. Frescobaldi’s patron, Guido Bentivoglio, accepted a position at the Papal Court. Luzzaschi dedicated his newly published madrigals to Cardinal Aldobrandini in Rome. By 1604, Frescobaldi had moved to Rome.
In 1607, the new Pope Paul V appointed Guido Bentivoglio as the Papal nuncio to Flanders. Frescobaldi went with him to Brussels. But in 1608, Enzo Bentivoglio became Ferrara’s ambassador to Rome and summoned Frescobaldi to join his own musical establishment. After Ercole Pasquini was fired (probably for dementia), the Chapter of St. Peter’s elected Frescobaldi to succeed him as organist of the Capella Giulia. Only the Vatican’s Capella Pontificia was more prestigious; its unaccompanied singers provided music for Mass and Vespers when the Pope was present. Frescobaldi’s responsibilities included performing and composing for activities at the basilica and churches associated with St. Peter’s—Masses, Offices, and votive offices. Frescobaldi arrived in Rome to find St. Peter’s under construction, with the old church being torn down as the new one was built around it. He found additional employment with Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, performing at the Palazzo Doria and the villa at Monte Magnanapoli.
Frescobaldi married Orsola del Pino in 1613, and they became the parents of five children: Francesco, Maddalena, Domenico, Stefano, and Caterina.
Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, offered Frescobaldi a new position which Frescobaldi accepted in February 1615. The Duke paid for the publication of the first edition of the Toccate e partite, libro primo (which Frescobaldi dedicated to him). But Frescobaldi didn’t enjoy the position, and in April returned to Rome to reassume his former positions. Besides his duties at St. Peter’s, Frescobaldi taught students, performed for his patron Cardinal Aldobrandini, and played in concerts at the best homes in Rome.
Rome experienced a number of major setbacks 1620-23, in the final years of Pope Paul V and the brief papacy of Gregory XV. But a flourishing of the arts occurred under the patronage of Pope Urban VIII. Bernini was this Pope’s primary advisor for art and architecture, with an emphasis on completing the construction of St. Peter’s.
By 1628, an opportunity for change came from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II, who visited Rome in March of that year. By late November, Frescobaldi received permission to leave Rome and move to Florence. By 1631, he was the highest paid court musician. Florence had its downside as well, notably the trial of Galileo and the plague of 1631-33 with resulting economic problems.
In 1634, the Barberini easily persuaded Frescobaldi to reassume the position of first organist of the Capella Giulia at St. Peter’s. Among the Barberini were three of the Pope’s nephews, who were powerful Cardinals and also important patrons of the arts. Cardinal Francesco was Archpriest of the Vatican, Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Church, Abbot of Farfa, and extremely wealthy. He supplemented Frescobaldi’s salary at St. Peter’s. Cardinals Francesco and Antonio Barberini helped subsidize the publication of Fiori musicali, which is dedicated to Antonio.
Frescobaldi fell ill on 19 February 1643 and died on 1 March. He was buried in the Basilica of the Holy Twelve Apostles as the leading musicians of Rome sang his funeral mass.
A church musician and keyboard artist from his earliest days in Rome, Frescobaldi composed and published in the standard genres of liturgical music of his time: versets for use in Mass and Office, toccatas, ricercares, canzonas, and capriccio variations. As his final publication, Fiori musicali represents the epitome of Frescobaldi’s compositional skill and creativity. Even the title (Musical Flowers) suggests a final flowering of his highly cultivated art as a composer.
The collection consists of three Masses which cover most of the occasions for which an organist’s services were required: Sundays (Domenica), saints’ days (Apostoli), and days of the Virgin Mary (Madonna). Frescobaldi provided organ versets only for the Kyrie, and other genres to cover various liturgical actions and Propers. Apparently the choir would have sung the other portions of the Mass Ordinary and Propers as chant or polyphony.
Stylistically, Frescobaldi demonstrated both the older contrapuntal skills (prima prattica) and the new Baroque expressive techniques (seconda prattica), which he successfully transferred to the keyboard. The older contrapuntal approach is represented by the Kyrie versets and the ricercares. The newer approach is best seen in the toccatas, canzonas, and capriccios. Besides providing music for the Mass, Frescobaldi also wished that this collection have the pedagogical purpose of showing compositional possibilities.
Frescobaldi used three primary ways to connect the Kyrie versets with the chants with which they are associated. The chant melody (or portion) may be stated in long notes in a single voice or it may be used as a thematic subject in several voices in imitation, accompanied by new contrapuntal material, or it may be used as a source of motives treated imitatively. Traditionally, the organ would have alternated with the choir during the nine-part Kyrie, providing five or six of the statements (organ-choir-organ for the first Kyrie section, choir-organ-choir or organ-choir-organ for the Christe section, and organ-choir-organ for the second Kyrie section). Frescobaldi wrote more versets than are needed, particularly for the Mass for Sundays (Messa della Domenica) to provide variety for the organist from Sunday to Sunday, as well as to show the wide contrapuntal and textural potential for versets, including pedal points, dance-like motives, syncopations, and imitation on various levels of complexity.
The ricercars (recercare) similarly show Frescobaldi’s command of Renaissance counterpoint. All five intended for the Offertory contain from two to four sections—separated by fermatas—so that the organist might conclude sooner or later, depending on when the priest was finished preparing for the Communion. The various sections of each ricercare are based on the same thematic material but with different counterpoints. The remaining ricercare has one section only, and an ostinato melody in the bass (“Recercar con obligo del basso”); it modulates through the circle of fifths in the direction of sharp keys (from C to E) and then in the direction of the flat keys (from D to Eb) before settling back into the original tonality of C major, having explored tonalities that are beyond the normal spread of Italian mean-tone temperament commonly used during his lifetime. There is one ricercar that has another ostinato melody to be sung, with a challenge to the organist to locate places where it might be added (“Recercar Con obligo di Cantare la Quinta voce senza Tocarla”). Frescobaldi provides no text, so Claudio Monteverdi’s “Sonata sopra ‘Sancta Maria ora pro nobis’” was used as a model of a similar work with ostinato melody, using the text, appropriate to a Marian mass, “Holy Mary, pray for us.”
There are two kinds of toccatas. The first kind is a miniaturized expressive and virtuosic toccata used for the introits (“Toccata Avanti la Messa”) and as a prelude to a ricercare (“Toccata Avanti il Recercar”) as a kind of toccata and fugue. A surprising array of motivic figures is used in these toccatas, along with unexpected harmonic shifts, suspensions, dissonances, and rapid scales. The second kind of toccata is a slow movement to accompany the elevation of the host (communion bread). The slow pace, quiet shimmering registration, and succession of dissonances and suspensions form the musical counterpart to the moment in the Mass representing the transubstantiation (when, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, the communion elements are mystically transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ).
The canzonas are used as a Gradual (“Canzon dopo la Pistola”, that is played after the Epistle lesson) and as a postlude (“Canzon post il Comune”). The lighter style and tempo of the canzona provide an alleviation from the more severe contrapuntal style of the ricercare and Kyrie versets as well as the intense expression of the two kinds of toccata. All the canzonas are variation canzonas in that the same thematic material is used in all sections, subjected to a variety of contrapuntal techniques, including inversion, stretto, pedal points, thematic transformation, and change of meter (duple to triple, for example), and each section introduces new countersubjects. Interestingly, Frescobaldi often separates these sections by interjecting a very brief toccata-like Adagio.
Instead of providing a canzona to conclude the Messa della Madonna, Frescobaldi composed two capriccios on familiar tunes, favorites of the Barberini family (and it should be noted that the Fiori musicali is dedicated to Cardinal Antonio Barberini): the Bergamasca and the Girolmeta. Neither of these tunes was permissible according to the regulations of the Council of Trent, but they demonstrate that organists nonetheless played variations or ariette “similar to the spagnoletta, or the Romanesca” (as Don Severino Bonini complained in his Discorsi e Regole, 1649). These two sets of variations are a dazzling demonstration of contrapuntal skill and creativity in the choice of meters, textures, motivic figures, creation of countersubjects, and handling of the new harmonic possibilities of the early Baroque (seen especially in the chromatic countersubjects). It is not surprising that Frescobaldi noted, “Whoever plays this Bergamasca will learn not a little” because he uses his four contrapuntal subjects (derived from the Bergamasca’s treble and bass melodies) to create the entire texture of this set of ingenious variations.
Giuseppe Testa Organ, 1676
Chiesa di Santa Lucia, Serra San Quirico (Marche), Italy
Restored in 2007 by Andrea Pinchi
Giuseppe Testa (1629-1677) built pipe organs in Rome and established a dynasty of organbuilders through his sons Filippo (1665-1726), Giacomo (1667-?), Pietro (1673-?) and Giovanni Battista (1675-1753); and the sons of Filippo: Damaso (1692-c. 1728), Celestino (1699 - 1772), and Lorenzo (1670 - after 1717). His organ heard on this CD was built in 1676 and remains largely intact and now restored (2007) by Andrea Pinchi of Foligno, Italy, whose firm was founded in 1929 by Rino Pinchi (1905-2000).
Principale I 8'
Principale II 8'
Quinta Decima 2'
Decima Nona 1'
Vigesima Seconda 1'
Vigesima Sesta-Vigesima Nona 2/3'-1/2'
REGISTRI DI CONCERTO:
Voce umana (from fº, celeste) 8'
Flauto in XII 2'
PEDAL (CDEFGA-c¹) 9 pedal notes, short octave bass, Manual permanently coupled
Tamburo (Drum: plays E + F of Contrabassi; right-most pedal [tenth key on Pedal clavier])
Tira tutti (draws all stops of the Ripieno)
Suspended mechanical key action
1/4 comma mean-tone temperament, A= 410 Hz
Calvert Johnson is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Music and College Organist at Agnes Scott College, where he teaches organ, harpsichord, sacred music, and women in music.
Johnson earned the master’s and doctorate in organ performance at Northwestern University where he studied with Karel Paukert, and the B.A. at Kalamazoo College, studying with Danford Byrens. Through the Fulbright-Hays program and a French government grant, he studied with Xavier Darasse at the Toulouse Conservatoire where he was awarded the Premier Prix.
He has performed throughout the USA, in Japan, Mexico and Europe. Among his performances are the Piccolo Spoleto Festival of Charleston, South Carolina; the International Organ Festival of Morelia, Mexico; Oaxaca Cathedral for a conference of the Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca; programs for Radio-France; The College Music Society's meetings at Santa Fe, Savannah, San Francisco, and Atlanta; the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Kennedy Center, Washington, representing the state of Arkansas in the Bicentennial year.
Johnson has performed and lectured on women composers and on early keyboard music at colleges and for numerous chapters of the American Guild of Organists, including conventions in Syracuse and Charleston. His earlier CDs appear on the Calcante Recordings label. His books on early Spanish, Italian, and English organ music are published by Wayne Leupold Editions, and his modern editions of works by women composers are published by Vivace Press, ClarNan Editions, Hildegard Publishing, and G. K. Hall. His recording Chicago Renaissance Woman: Florence B. Price Organ Works was awarded the third annual prize by the Sonneck Society for American Music. Past President of the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society and past Dean of the Atlanta and Tulsa chapters of the American Guild of Organists, Johnson is included in the International Who's Who in Music and in Who's Who in Music in America.
Chants of the Kyrie are performed by the men of the Schola at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta. They are Brad Hughley, director; Daniel Beck; Bill Buckner; William E. Gould, Jr.; Jim Fason III; Matthew Kamins; John A. Richardson; and John Whitt. Amy Hughley, soprano, sings “Recercar con obligo di cantare la quinta voce” in the Messa della Madonna.